Chickens

April snow showers

April Snow Showers

Spring is (supposedly) in full swing now, even though it is snowing outside as I type this post (does this sound familiar?).  I had the opportunity to attend a Native American storytelling session at my son’s kindergarten class this past week and one of the stories was about the annual battle between Old Man Winter and Young Man Spring.  The moral of the story was that these two mythical creatures have a hard-fought battle at this time every year and, although we never know how long the battle will last, we do know that Young Man Spring will always eventually defeat Old Man Winter.  This year, it seemed that Young Man Spring was set to have an early win back in March.  But, right about now, it is apparent that Old Man Winter is fighting hard and holding on longer than usual.  Come on, Spring!  We are all routing for you down here under this blanket of snow!  Don’t let us down!

 

But, regardless of April snow showers, our little homestead is marching forward with our annual spring activities, as well as a new one for us – baby chicks! 

baby Barred Plymouth Rock chicks

We have had layer chickens (Rhode Island Reds from a local place called Moyers Chicks) for the past 4 years but we have always gotten them as pullets, which are like teenage chickens – typically about 18-20 weeks old at the time you get them and should start laying eggs within the next 4-6 weeks after arrival.  While that has worked out well in the past, we thought it might be fun to try something new this year.  So we went online to a website called mypetchicken.com and ordered 9 female chicks of the Barred Plymouth Rock breed to be delivered to us in the mail when they were only one day old.  This particular breed is known to be tolerant of the cold weather and fairly docile around little humans and also a productive egg layer.  Perfect for us!  Also, they are super cute!  Right now, they look like little black fluff balls and will grow up to be pretty good looking as well, with a black and white checkered look.  So we have the 9 of those little gals set up in a cardboard box in the living room for now – with access to chick starter feed and water, and a heat lamp to keep it at about 95 degrees. (And I’d just like to point out that these new additions to our flock bring the female-to-male ratio on our homestead up to 23-to-5.  Yay for the girls!  If only one of the other females around here were interested in curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine and talking through our problems together…)

 

In addition to the baby chicks, the kids are also keeping a close eye on their Easter caterpillars that have gorged themselves for the past 2 weeks and are now all tucked away in their chrysalis and awaiting the moment when they will emerge as beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. 

painted lady caterpillars in chrysalis form

 

Another fun spring activity is planting seeds that will eventually be transferred outside when (if?) it ever gets warm enough to support plant life!  This year, the kids planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, basil, and parsley and have been monitoring the tiny plots of soil daily to check the soil for water and to thin out the sprouts as they overcrowd the egg cartons where they are growing and competing for water and sunshine.  They also helped Joe to plant a bunch of flower seeds indoors in the hopes that we can transfer them outside and attract more beneficial pollinators to our little corner of the woods. 

 April 2016 sowing flower seeds indoors

 

Lastly, we bred the rabbits on March 16 and so are expecting two kits of bunnies to arrive around April 15.  Hopefully we will have news of them soon.  I don’t know about you but I find this time of year so exciting and encouraging when I look around to hunt for signs of spring and new life and am happily rewarded with splashes of color in our otherwise drab and dreary looking forest and the sound of songbirds returning to the trees and the anticipation of new babies on the way!  Life is good!

 

Nervous about getting chickens? Try renting!

While we normally only post once every weekend (and will still do so this week), we were sent something cool that we thought we would share quickly.  Consider this a micro-blog, or the closest thing to a “Tweet” that you are likely to see from us any time soon.

A few weeks back, we posted about the economics of keeping laying hens, and how they represented a great, productive addition to a homestead of any size, as well as a wonderful return on investment.  While getting chickens is one of the best decisions that we made on our homestead, we recognize that there can be a certain resistance or “activation energy” to actually taking the plunge.  This week a close friend sent us an article about a budding new type of business based on renting chickens, complete with all of the trapping required to sustain them for 6 months.  One such business that is “relatively” close to us is called “Rent The Chicken“.  While the business is located in Western PA, the site indicates that for a fee, delivery can be made anywhere in PA, as well as some neighboring states so we would be in their service region. 

Yep, you read that right!  Not sure you want to go through the time and cost of building a chicken coop, getting a chickens and investing in all of that feed only to find out that maybe chickens aren’t the best fit for you?  Talk about outsourcing?!  At the base cost of $350 with options to pay more for non-GMO feed ($50) and a potential extended distance delivery, there isn’t necessarily a direct return on investment (you could expect 20-30 dozen eggs over  the rental period, to the tune of ~$100-150 value in eggs), but you can’t beat the convenience and this seems to provide a great, low risk option for someone that is not sure that they want chickens!  If you have been on the proverbial fence about getting chickens, maybe this can give you the push you need.  Check ’em out!